Oi Polloi

Misanthropic Meanderings: Football Tribes

Published: Fri Jul 08 2016

Having begun to consciously like football again, I've actually quite enjoyed the Euros. In my role as a high-flying writer-about-coats-and-shoes I was in Florence when England played Wales. I watched the first half on my iPad amongst legions of fashion melvs and just as we were leaving to find a bar, Gareth Bale lined up that free kick. We watched the second half in the Hard Rock cafe. I really had to stifle a series of yelps when Sturridge stumbled that winner over the line. It's just in me. 

Meanwhile, back in England, the under-14s I coach have had their training schedule doubled after we limped to promotion last season. 

And before I know it, we'll be back traipsing the terraces of non-league as my terrible football team attempt to get back into the professional ranks, where they spent over 100 years before falling over in a drunken stupor.

With the football comes those faces. Anyone who regularly attends games at their club will know what I mean. People who you see, perhaps you're on nodding terms with them, but there's a reassuring inevitability about it all. There's him with the hat on back to front, there's those brothers who look like evacuees, there's that family who look like the Bacons out of Viz... and so it continues. 

Here, I've tried to split these people into tribes. 

The Banter Boys

The whole laddish, bantery, “Isn't it great being thick and unfunny,” subculture has become mainstream. And with football so much more accessible these days, they're becoming the dominant tribe. Singing the same generic songs, some of which don't even scan properly and some of which belong in 1972, the banter boys are a hybrid of those boorish yuppie city boys of the 80s and the Britpop lads of the 90s. They have catchphrases, and when someone exercises a measure of sharp wit, it is met with phrases like, “Shots fired!” and, “Wheyy!”

They're absolute idiots.

The Disenfranchised

The opposite to the banter boys, these miserable gets find it hard to get excited about anything, except maybe a last minute winner. And even then it's more of a violent relief and air punching anger. They feel the new, sanitised version of football is no longer theirs and if you scratch the surface they have quite a few strong political opinions too. But let's not go there. The disenfranchised are prime candidates for having a stent fitted when they're about 36.

Yesterday's Fan

In the 80s, when I was a kid obsessed with football, the things which held my attention more than the tepid offering on the pitch were the sights, sounds and smells. The Bovril, the bloke who would always shout the same thing at the linesman, every game, then the legions of elderly fellas wrapped up warm, who wouldn't stand up when we scored and would demand any visiting player with even slightly long hair get it cut.

Fast forward 30 years and they all seem like they're still alive. They've aged about 20 minutes. Sure, their flask has been replaced by something NASA developed but their tartan blanket remains, as does a plentiful supply of mint imperials which never dwindles. 


I'm looking at you, Crystal Palace. I'm talking about you Stevenage. By all means support your team however you see fit, but it all seems like it's trying too hard, lads. You're from England, why are you wearing sunglasses for a night game? You're not from Milan, you're from West Norwood and your Mum works at the Co-Op. Also, what's with these droning songs with hardly any words? Where's the actual passion in them? What happened to spontaneous terrace wit? What happened to off-the-cuff ditties sung with such gusto that flecks of spittle would rain on the person in front? It's all a bit “Look at me, look at me”.

Then on Monday morning they remove their black 'designer' Superdry uniform, replace it with pointy shoes and an ill-fitting suit, and it's back to the post room to tell unimpressed workmates exaggerated tales of an away trip to Bristol.


Always there, always on their own, with their idiosyncrasies and their Velcro shoes. Trainspotters without the trains.

Club Insider

Always thinks he knows the inside track on rumours because actual club officials tolerate him and let him get involved in the odd bit of raffle ticket selling. He uses this to inflate his role at the club, wearing an outdated official club tie for christenings.

He knows everyone but nobody really knows him, and as a result of this, those rumours about his questionable hard drive persist, somewhat.

Quiet Mate

Always there or thereabouts, never really speaks, then suddenly starts a really funny song at Carlisle away, before going back into his shell and hibernating for another 18 months.

His hair is always immaculate and he smokes those long cigarettes that gossiping women in precincts favour.

AMF Crowd

These are too enthusiastic to be the disenfranchised and too clued up to knock about with the Nu-Ultras. They wear expensive coats but complain when they get a 50p surcharge on a ticket. These lads are political but you wonder how much of it is just for show. Their flag game is strong, which is to their eternal credit. 

Lad From School

You never speak to him unless absolutely necessary. You can barely remember his surname. Rodgers? Richards? His sister was fit until she had about 8 kids and stopped going to the dentist. He used to occasionally wear Stone Island but has somehow found his way to wearing garish hoodies with TOKYO on them in big furry letters because now he is happy to let his wife buy his clothes. Looks 50 but is nowhere near that.

Shorts Man

There's a shorts man at every club. Basically, he's the fella who is always, always inappropriately dressed. In November, when everyone is clad in layers and there are more wools present than a Runcorn Ravers reunion (for the Scousers that), he's wearing a t-shirt. Or worse, he's acknowledged the sharp chill in the air and has brought his scarf out with him. But he's still wearing shorts. Athletic shorts as well. 

Fisher Price Casuals

Traditionally known as Under-5s on account of their lack of height, these identikit instagrammers are the children of Carty off Awaydays. “This is what they wear” he claimed, looking into the mirror at himself in a cagoule and trainers. He's right. It is what they wear. Every last one of them.

Snidey Know-Alls in Nice Shoes

Me, that.   

Read more of Mark's meanderings in Proper Magazine

Illustration by Stuart Fear.